Russian cargo recognized as humanitarian aid
Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) — The Ukrainian government has recognized the contents of 262 Russian vehicles as humanitarian aid for war-weary civilians in the eastern part of the country, according to a statement from the Ukrainian Cabinet office.
“Taking into attention President Poroshenko’s initiative to receive humanitarian aid from the international humanitarian mission under the supervision of ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), we recognize the cargo listed below as humanitarian aid,” a statement from Ukraine’s government website reads.
Ukraine received a list of the inventory on Saturday — it was signed by the head of the regional ICRC delegation to Russia. The aid will be transported to Ukraine through the Donetsk checkpoint, the statement said.
Months of fighting has killed hundreds of people and, aid groups say, left thousands in eastern Ukraine without access to water, electricity and proper medical aid.
However, it may be awhile before the food, water and medicine reaches those who need it.
Pascal Cuttat, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Moscow, says there are still “basic technical details” that need to be discussed.
The convoy’s inspection will “not realistically” happen today, said Victoria Zotikova, a spokeswoman for the ICRC.
Zotikova added that the aid agency is missing security guarantees from all sides “acting on the territory through which the convoy will be moving.”
A Trojan Horse?
Moscow says the trucks contain grain, sugar, baby food, medical supplies and sleeping bags — a claim that Kiev initially viewed as suspect.
The aid has been a source of diplomatic tension between the two countries, as Ukraine worries that the aid convoy could be a “Trojan horse” carrying military equipment for pro-Russian rebels fighting the new government in Kiev.
The Ukrainian recognized governor of Luhansk, Irina Verigina, said this week that she doesn’t want aid from Russia.
Ukraine, meanwhile, says it is distributing its own aid through the Red Cross.
“They send us tanks and Grads (rocket-launching vehicles) overnight and offer to send humanitarian aid by day,” Verigina said.
Ukraine: We destroyed most of a Russian convoy
Ukraine claims its artillery destroyed much of a military convoy that crossed from Russia into Ukraine last week — an incursion that two British newspapers say they witnessed.
If true, Ukraine’s account and the British reports appear to give credence to what Kiev has long alleged — that Russia has been sending troops and arms into eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels have battled the Ukrainian military for months.
A diplomatic row was brewing Friday over the reports, with the United Kingdom’s foreign office summoning Russia’s ambassador in London to explain the incident.
Russia’s foreign ministry has denied any such incursion, and its foreign minister will meet in Berlin with his counterparts from Ukraine, Germany and France on Sunday, state-run news agency RIA-Novosti reported. The meeting’s agenda wasn’t immediately released.
Those concerns took on a new light when British media outlets The Guardian and The Telegraph reported that armored personnel carriers, along with other vehicles with Russian military plates, crossed the border near Donetsk, Ukraine, on Thursday night.
The Guardian reported that it witnessed 23 armored personnel carriers, in addition to other vehicles with Russian military plates, cross into Ukraine through a gap in a barbed wire fence. “Armed men were visible in the gloom by the border fence as the column moved into Ukraine,” the Guardian report reads.
This is the first time foreign media recorded such an incursion, though it illustrates what Kiev has said has been happening for months — that Russia has been sending troops and equipment to help the rebels — Ukrainian military Col. Andriy Lysenko told reporters.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told British Prime Minister David Cameron that Ukrainian forces destroyed “the majority” of the Russian vehicles, Poroshenko’s office said.
Poroshenko “expressed concern over the situation on the border, particularly over the fact that the inflow of Russian arms and military machines in Ukraine through the open part of the border continued,” his office said.
Lysenko said he didn’t know exactly how many vehicles crossed the border, or how many Ukraine’s artillery managed to destroy.
Battle rages on
A Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down on Sunday in the Luhansk region, Leonid Matyuhin, the spokesman for Ukraine’s counter-terrorist operation, told CNN. The pilot managed to eject and is safe, Ukrainian state media reported.
The ongoing fighting — sparked last year with a political crisis over whether Ukraine would seek closer ties with Europe or Russia — has left more than 2,000 people dead and just under 5,000 wounded in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, according to estimates from U.N. officials.
The United States and the European Union have applied steadily increasing sanctions against Russian officials, banks and other interests since March, when Russia annexed the Black Sea Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Russia’s move came a month after Ukraine’s parliament ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych.
Yanukovych left office after violent protests against his government in the capital, Kiev. Those protests were motivated in part by his decision to back out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.